HONG KONG/SINGAPORE, July 25 Japan's Aeon Co Ltd
and state-owned China Resources Enterprise Ltd
are among the suitors considering bids for the Hong
Kong supermarket business being sold by billionaire Li Ka-shing,
people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
Li's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd conglomerate has set an
Aug. 16 deadline for initial bids for the business, with an
asking price of up to $4 billion, said the people, who declined
to be identified because the sale process is confidential.
The auction is generating interest from companies and
private equity firms, lured by the opportunity to operate in a
market that is dominated by two large players. Octogenarian Li
is planning to sell the business to focus more on Hutchison's
health and beauty retail operations, which have a bigger global
footprint and offer higher margins compared with the supermarket
business, the people said.
Australian retailers Woolworths Ltd and Wesfarmers
Ltd and China's Sun Art Retail Group Ltd are among the
other suitors evaluating bids, the people added.
China Resources, Sun Art and Wesfarmers declined to comment.
Aeon and Woolworths were not available for immediate comment.
Hutchison declined to comment on the process. Last week, the
company said it was conducting a strategic review of its
supermarket retail business to optimise value for shareholders.